Russia Develops Hypersonic Missile System To Up Ante in Ukraine War

A system designed to launch one of Russia's much-vaunted hypersonic missiles is expected to be ready for use by the end of the year, state media have reported.

News agencye Tass said that a system to launch the Tsirkon missile was being developed at the renowned rocket design bureau NPO Mashinostroyenia in Reutov, near Moscow, which Newsweek has contacted for comment.

A military source told the agency that the coastal missile system is slated to enter service with the Russian Navy "by the end of 2022."

Another source said the new system will have the capacity to strike both ground- and sea-based targets. This would give it the same capability as its predecessor, the Bastion, which deploys Oniks supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles.

Anatoly Svintsov, deputy general director of NPO Mashinostroeniya, told the Zvezda military TV channel that while there were aviation- and sea-based versions of the Tsirkon, his factory had been ordered to "intensify work on the creation of a marine version of the rocket."

The report of the missile system's development comes as the Russian Navy plays an increasingly critical role in the Ukraine war.

This week, Russia reportedly loaded Kalibr cruise missiles onto two Varshavyanka submarines in the Black Sea, only days after it was said that the U.S. would target the Russian fleet to free up grain stranded at Ukrainian ports.

Before his invasion of Ukraine, Putin repeatedly boasted about the capabilities of his country's hypersonic missiles, which are faster and more agile than standard ones and are harder for defense systems to intercept.

Over the last two and a half years, Russia has said it had test-launched the Tsirkon missile a number of times from its Northern Fleet vessel Admiral Gorshkov. Moscow says it can hit targets up to 660 miles away.

At Mach 9, the Tsirkon missile is at the low end of the hypersonic spectrum. As Newsweek has previously reported, unlike pure hypersonic missiles which rely on scramjets, it is believed to be a hybrid cruise missile and ballistic missile. Experts have warned that it could overwhelm the American Aegis Combat System.

In March, Russia said it had used hypersonic missiles for the first time in the Ukraine war, targeting a military warehouse in the Ivano-Frankivsk region in the west of the country with its newest Kinzhal weapon.

Moscow is ramping up talk of its missile capabilities. Last month, Russia test-fired the nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic Sarmat missile, also known as Satan II, which President Vladimir Putin said would make adversaries "think twice."

Meanwhile, Kremlin-backed television channels have repeatedly made threats about missile strikes on western countries that are backing Kyiv's forces.

Russia, Admiral, Gorshkov, fires, Tsirkon, missile
Russia's lead Admiral Gorshkov-class frigate test-fires the Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile from the White Sea toward a land target on the coast of the Barents Sea more than 200 miles away in this photo published July 2021. Russian agency Tass reported that a missile system for the Tsirkon is being developed. Russian Ministry of Defense